Is That a 64-bit App?

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Cyberknight asked the Windows forum how to identify 64-bit programs.

Windows installs 32- and 64-bit programs in different locations on the hard drive. When you install a 64-bit program into a 64-bit version of Windows, the operating system stores the program files in a subfolder of C:\Program Files. But when you install a 32-bit program, Windows puts the program files in a subfolder of C:\Program Files (x86).

(And, of course, when you install a 64-bit program into a 32-bit version of Windows, you get an error message.)

Therefore, the easiest way to find out if you've installed a 64-bit program is to see where its files are stored. And the easiest way to do that is to right-click the program's shortcut in the Start menu and select Properties. The Target field displays the path to the program file. If there's no "(x86)" in that path, it's a 64-bit program.

But why 86 and not 32? Historical reasons. The entire Windows/PC platform is based on chips that descended from Intel's first 16-bit processor, the 8086. The term x86, referring to that processor's instruction set, pre-dates the introduction of 64-bit personal computing.

Remember that an x64 version of Windows can run both x64 and x86 programs, but an x86 add-on probably won't work on an x64 application. And an older, 16-bit program won't work on Windows x64 at all.

Read the original forum discussion.

Contributing Editor Lincoln Spector writes about technology and cinema. Email your tech questions to him at, or post them to a community of helpful folks on the PCW Answer Line forum. Follow Lincoln on Twitter.

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